Uganda: What Will Influence Voters' Decision in 2021 Elections

The country is entering an intense part of the 2020/2021 General Election schedule.

Preparations for intra-party elections, which are a precursor to the main elections, are in high gear.

Posters of aspiring candidates are pervasive. Enclosures of construction sites, electricity poles and road pavements are the prominent display points lately.

Mbarara City's Buremba Street has two big construction sites that have been dubbed 'Information Centre' because of the numerous posters.

Aspiring candidates and their agents are aggressively using Internet and social media to reach and appeal to voters.

Uganda's Internet subscribers stood at 16.9 million by December 2019, up from 15.4 million in October 2019.

Lately, FM radio stations are the most sought after platform. There are about 310 radio stations across the country.

Hosts of radio political shows have started organising debates for aspirants to talk about what they intend to accomplish and address should they get into office.

Ibanda-based Rwenzori FM-Eiraka on July 18 organised a debate for the people aspiring for Kazo District Woman MP.

On July 25 Mbarara's Endigyito FM hosted four people aspiring for parliamentary positions in different areas and discussed performance of MPs in the 10th Parliament.

Although political parties and individual prospective candidates are already engaging voters, the official unveiling of manifestos will be done soon.

For instance, according to National Resistance Movement (NRM) political roadmap, the party manifesto will be launched on October 4.

But will candidates and manifestos meet voters' expectations?

A survey by Daily Monitor shows that, to some of the voters, commitment to deliver services and championing people's interests remains crucial in choosing leaders.

Some voters don't want leaders who have served for long while others want youthful leaders. Others want to exchange their vote for money. The considerations are diverse as some people are pessimistic and apathetic about voting.

"A sound leader should not just surface during elections, they should have been in public domain advocating for the good of the people and fighting for their rights. My decision will be based on that, not political party affiliation or colours they are putting on," Mr Aron Isabirye, 35, a lecturer at Kampala University, says.

Mr Joshua Kakooza, 60, a resident of Kimaanya in Masaka City says he will give his vote to only candidates whose focus is on the problems affecting the common man.

"My vote will not go to any candidate who will promise what he can't fulfil. I want a pro-people leader who understands problems of the common man," Mr Kakooza says.

Mr Simon Nangiro, the head of civil society organisations in Karamoja, says many voters are after money.

"The current elections have no purpose because as long as a candidate gives money to voters who are already hungry, they just vote without considering leadership value," says Mr Nangiro.

Mr Peter Abwangu, a voter in Oreme village, Anyalima parish, Ogor Sub-county in Otuke District has been voting since 2001. He believes politicians are self-seekers and that he will exchange his vote for money.

"This time, a candidate must pay me first the amount I want. Otherwise I will not vote for anybody because politicians have cheated us for long," Mr Abwangu says.

Mr Jimmy Odongo of Awaping village, Abako Sub-county, Alebtong District says: "In the past after addressing voters, politicians would give Shs100,000 to them to buy waragi or share among themselves and each person would get Shs500."

He adds: "But now, if you come to my house looking for my vote, do you think I will accept anything less than Shs10,000; definitely no. This is going to be the most expensive election for candidates."

Fighting corruption

Mr Moses Ogwal, a voter from Inomo Sub-county, Kwania District says: "We want leaders who are not corrupt because corruption remains a very big challenge, especially in government offices."

Ms Salim Aciga, self-employed youth in Ayivu Division, Arua City, says: "We want to vote leaders who will tarmac more roads. The road from Arua Town through Onduparaka to Odramacaku and Lia border post is in sorry state. Better road network makes transportation of goods easier and will also bring more revenue for our City."

Ms Rachel Lasheri Ingabire, 27, a business lady and resident of Mbuga Parish, in Nyakinama Sub-county, Kisoro District says security is her major concern.

"I will support a political leader who is capable of delivering on security of the people and their property," she says.

Mr Richard Muhanguzi Bashasha, 44, a legal practitioner and resident of Kirigime Ward in Kabale Town says he will support leaders who are fighting corruption and dictatorship.

Ms Edith Tuheise 26, a mobile money operator in Mbarara South Division, Mbarara City says she needs a decent job.

"It's no longer the politics of service delivery. Leaders these days are self-centred. I will also vote for a candidate that offers me something (money) or any other support like a job because I am a graduate but ended up here because of unemployment," she says.

Mr Charles Bainomugisha, 68, businessman in Mbarara City says: "I will vote for candidates of my political party right from the president up to the lowest level." Mr Anthony Azora, a boat captain at Wanseko Landing Site, Buliisa District, says he will not vote incumbents; he wants only fresh candidates.

"It is a national cake, everyone should benefit or eat," he says.

Ms Deborah Kasemera, a resident of Fort Portal City, says she will vote her friends.

"I think my choice will be based on friendship with candidates. These politicians no longer add any value to me. MPs are so annoying. For the city Division heads and the city leadership, I'll just give my votes to my friends," says Ms Kasemera.

Ms Bajenja Susan Bethsheba, 32, a social worker and professional head therapist at Rwenzori Travelers Inn hotel in Fort Portal City, says she votes basing one's capability to deliver services.

Ms Nyakato Rusoke Abooki, 50, says: "My choice of party and candidates to vote for will totally depend on the way they will articulate issues that directly affect the people nationally and locally. Their messages should offer solutions to the challenges in communities."

Mr Paul Muhangi Katakanya, 48, businessman in Ntungamo says, "I'm ready to vote anyone who is convincing by word and promises proper service delivery. The person I see can make me want to go to a polling station. I don't think I can be driven by any political party, my interest is in personalities who can deliver."

Mr Nicholas Ahsante, 32, a teacher in Ntungamo says he will vote someone who is very close to people.

"My consideration is the interpersonal relationship a person has with voters. You find someone may be a good legislator but doesn't relate well with the electorate. I will not vote that one, that person may represent himself not the voters."

Mr Ahsante adds: " The issue of political parties is not what I can go for, because you can vote someone who sleeps in Parliament and only wakes up to vote, I decided to focus on the right individuals."

Mr Innocent Mbasiima, 39, a medical worker in Ntungamo says he is giving chance to young people:

"I will not vote any person above the age of 60. This is time for young people to come and project themselves. I would indeed vote for the party that presents more youthful people," he says.

Ms Edinasi Makatu, 82, a peasant farmer in Ntungamo says she has no energy to go to the polling station to vote but someone who will provide means of transport will win her vote.

Ms Lovisa Mutesi, 66, from Mukono District says she will not participate in the elections arguing that it is a waste of time because there will be rigging.

Mr Hakim Mukasa,38, said he will vote Opposition candidates because he wants change.

Mr Moses Ndawula, 28, a teacher in Mukono District prefers young leaders.

"I will not vote anyone above 45 years. Our Parliament is full of old people and they are standing again. I will vote young new candidates," says Mr Ndawula.

Candidates and political parties do a lot of manoeuvres during campaigns to influence voters. Whether these people's perceptions will change or remain the same, the voting time remains to be seen.

Reported by Alfred Tumushabe, Perez Rumanzi, Wilson Kutamba, Ambrose Musasizi, Rajab Mukombozi, Bill Oketch, Robert Muhereza, Steven Ariong, Felix Basiime, Andrew Mugati, Patrick Ebong, Felix Warom Okello, Jessica Sabano & Elly Katahinga.

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